Colombia haz Fazt interwebz

One of the most annoying misconceptions about Colombia, beside the whole drug thing is that we all live in huts and the concept of cities or a mall is only an American thing. Anyone that has travelled outside of the U.S. knows that while it is vastly different, there is civilization and big cities everywhere.

Within minutes of arriving at my Mother in Law’s house we have a router hooked up and all of our devices were wirelessly connected to the web.

One of the things that Colombia has over the US when it comes to cellphones is that you don’t get charged for “airtime.” Only the person that initiates the call has to pay for those minutes. So you can get an inexpensive cell phone with little minutes and it will last you the whole trip. People will call you and you will not use many of your minutes. This pay model was even present when there were only land lines, and if you initiate the call, you pay for it… whoever gets it pays nothing.

The broadband market still not as big as in the US but it is widely available. The price is still prohivitive to most of the pupulation which makes the whole concept of internet cafes a lot more viable here vs in the US where it died as soon as computers becames just as common as TV sets in the US.

We are lucky enough to have broadband availalbe and it gives me the flexibility of being able to call back to the US using VoiP. I also can upload any pictures I take with the phone directly to facebook when I get home at night. There are still many things that technology wise are not available to everyone, but if you have the money you can get it. Like netbooks and iphones.

So far with everyone that I have talked to, facebook is the site… twitter is not really used. Social media is in full force here and many businesses big and small are really getting into the whole facebook page thing.

We had the pleasure of traveling with an editor of one of the local papers and talked about the impact of the web on the printed media, but he felt like they were years away from being replaced. I told him about how many local papers are closing or being downsized considerably there, but he explained that even though the availability of technology is there it is still not widely used. I guess the penetration is more along the side of 3DTV and Blueray, than just computers.

We still have a lot to see and visit, but so far being here has not made me feel disconnected at all. I am still playing online games and using the computer to the same capacity that I can in Chicago. There are a number of sites that do see your IP range and deny you content, like TV sites and Netflix. Other than that everything is pretty available and at a very decent speed.

Elders

We have a neighbor that is well into her 80s. We are always conflicted as to how involved we should get. We have had a couple of good conversations with the lady and have learned lots about her life. Every time we have offered help she has been polite to decline it and seems to be a private person even though she has shared some of her life story with us. The conflict comes from both Bea and I coming from a society where our elders were not just part of our lives, they were integral parts of our formation as human beings. Elders are not just respected but rather revered. I cannot forget the first time I went to an “old folks home” back in Colombia when I was a kid and thinking about how it was like an orphanage but for older people. I never imagined that in the society that I would become an adult, a “retirement community” was not the exception but pretty close to the rule.

This society is geared towards individualism and youth. Every day industries promote the fountain of youth and how people are living longer, but also how obsessed people are with staying young. The 40s are the new 30s and so on. Many people are scared of getting older in all societies, but getting older in the U.S. can be right down terrifying.

My paternal grandfather passed away in 2006 and my maternal grandfather is getting older each day. My Mom and I have talked about how my grandfather’s light is not shinning as bright as it used to. This is the man that taught me how to play chess and was always very assertive and successful business man. Now his days are full of anxiety about his illness and all he seems to look forward to now are his yearly trips to Colombia to escape the winter. The cold that to him is killing him might be related more to the coldness of this society has towards the elder rather than the temperature on the thermometer. He would gladly spend the rest of his life back in Colombia, but my grandma who is over a decade younger than him wants to be here where all of our family is. Read more…

Colombian Independence

We are 10* 1 year away from the 200th anniversary of Colombia’s independence from Spain today. Simón Bolívar became the first president of Colombia in 1819, but Independence was declared July 20th 1810.* Today Colombians all over the world remember the reason our flag has 3 stripes. The first one, yellow represent all the natural resources and rich soil or our nation. The second, blue represents the two oceans that our nation touches. The last one is the red, which represents all the blood that was shed and is still being shed in the name of freedom.

*Correction – Thanks to Mafe.

As proud as I am of becoming an American by obtaining citizenship, I am of having been born in such a beautiful land as Colombia. I am proud of where I came from and try to show that Colombians are more than violent drug lords, which are a minority that has left a mark in our country’s image.

Today I want to share some facts with you about the land that I grew up on.

Colombia is FIRST on the world
Emeralds
Flowers
And Coffee Quality

Varieties if Palm trees
Anfibians (583 species)
Bamboo production
Orquids (3500 species)
and Tropical Birds (1815 species)

Colombia is SECOND:
In Coffee production (Brazil is actually first)
In Exporting agricultural products to the USA
Butierflies (300 families y 14000 species)

And that is not all:
It has the closest snow covered mountain to the sea (Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta).
As well as one of the biggest bio diversities in the world.

But its most important resource is its people, hard working, craving peace and wants to make not just a better country but a better world.

Happy Independence Day Colombia!

I don’t like chocolate

Lets say that you love a good apples. The sweet smell of fresh apples, or maybe fresh pie made from apples that grew just down the road from where you live. You grew up eating this tasty apples and suddenly you cannot have such apples anymore.

I love maraschino cherries. They are preserved and sweetened, but this is how I first tasted them. I love cherry artificial flavor, but real cherries from the grocery store or even cherry pie not so much.

Most people here think that there is only one type of mango, or one type of banana. In the tropics there are several variation of the fruit. For example mangoes vary in consistency from peach meaty to very stringy, and in flavor from very sour to super sweet. Bananas here are about medium size and actually not that sweet. The normal banana consumed in Colombia is about double the sweetness, but there are even some sweeter varieties.

Moving to another country brings a lot of issues when it comes to food. The freshness and availability of certain things just goes completely out the window. You adapt and adopt other likes. Now this brings me to chocolate.

Chocolate in Colombia tastes a lot different than here. Even more so sugar. Sugar that comes from sugar cane is a lot different than sugar that comes from corn. I am sure the molecular structure ends up being the same, but when things are actually made from high fructose corn syrup, they end up tasting was too sweet, almost sticky.

It is hard to taste the difference going from the overpowering corn to the sugar cane. What most people call chocolate here tastes nothing like the chocolate I ate in Colombia. Specially hot cocoa. Chocolate here to me tastes like pure sugar with a hint of the flavor I used to taste, so that is why I don’t like chocolate.

You guys have no idea the incredulous diatribes I hear every time I tell someone that I don’t like chocolate. I specially dislike things that are chocolate flavored because they taste nothing like real chocolate. I sometimes wonder if people would think that real chocolate is actually too bitter for them to like.

I don’t get it. Plenty of people hate liver and green beans, both foods I love, but I have never heard anyone freak out about people that say they don’t like them. I guess because chocolate is marketed here like the answer to everyone’s bad day. I don’t like the fake flavor of chocolate even though I can enjoy the cherry one… its not that weird people, its just a preference.

A Little Bit of Juan Valdez in Every Can

Cartoon about Colombia

Coffee growers in Colombia are pissed off and are going to sue. The cartoonist in question is Mike Peters for his strip Mother Goose and Grimm, and even though I do not know much about him I have to say I enjoy his drawing style. I also want to say in his defense, before I start to state my opinion that he said “he loves Colombia, his strip is being taken out of context because it is part of a series, and he always means to be humorous and not offend.”

Zapiro, a very famous political cartoonist in South Africa, has been drawing Nelson Mandela for years. He was recently interviewed by the BBC, and one of the things that surprised him is that Mandela actually followed him even when he was very critical of him. Mandela was even upset when he changed newspapers because he could not follow him every day now and called Zapiro. Mandela told Zapiro that he would never be offended because being a counter voice was his job.

Peters used a joke that I have heard before. That was my first thought when I saw the cartoon, that it was a little unoriginal. I am not saying I have heard every Colombian joke, but I have heard plenty. As an Immigrant I have always wanted to hear those kinds of jokes because I think they make me informed and give me an opportunity to tell the truth about a stereotype of a misconception.

Peters also is not a political cartoonist, and in that context bringing up violence in Colombia would probably have worked as satire. For a country that is working very hard to change its image, has the fastest growing economy of Latin America and its doing everything it can to stabilize itself a cartoon like this can be damaging. Unless it opens up the doors to conversation.

I think the coffee growers of Colombia are taking this opportunity to create a little publicity. I don’t think Peters meant any harm, and I hope that at the end of the day everyone that comes across the story can at least say they know a little more about this beautiful country where I was born.

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